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CD Feature/ HOH: "Bestemor"

img  Tobias

If a certain group of artists is bunched together for reasons of journalistic convenience, it mostly has to do with similarities. The “Stavanger Scene”, to which Helge Olav Oksendal of HOH belongs, however, is mainly marked by stylistic differences: From Dark Ambient via Drones to almost Pop-like structures the entire range of experimental music finds itself represented in this Norwegian town of not even 120.000 inhabitants. For those interested in catching a glimpse of the sounds of the city, “Bestemor”, an album as diverse as its influences, offers a welcome introduction.

On the one hand, this could be expected. Certainly, HOH has always been geared towards listening with your brain and your body, instead just one of them. Similarly, Oksendal might have been an underground player, but his music was never without commercial appeal. If this man hasn’t broken through yet on a larger scale, it has more to do with his unpredictable live sets and his romantic vision that art should be a full and uncompromising expression of your inmost feelings. Or to put it differently: While there is nothing ironic about “Bestemor”, it also refuses to cater to the demands of those who believe in an experiment for experimentation’s sake: Melody and harmony are not the enemy here. Which is why this wild, bubbling and wondersome mix of cultures and traditions, which includes a cover by 70s band The Doors, tender folktronica, quirky electro, a metal pastiche, broken beats in coherent compositions and hiphop samples as the basis to noise tracks, will please the pluralistically interested and scare off a public afraid of everything “in between”. On the other hand, this colourful approach might seem surprising considering that the death of Oksendal’s beloved grandmother was the sad inspiration to the record. If you dig in deep, you might discover faint hints to the events surrounding the music’s genesis in titles such as “you’re too close, come closer” or the bittersweet melancholia of the epic opener “To the lighthouse”, which goes from ethereal chants to a mesmerising and intoxicating whirlwind of sounds and beats. But on the whole, the album never allows itself all too obvious references, remaining composed and concentrated throughout.

“Bestemor” (the Norwegian term for grandmother), therefore, is not a requiem, but a tribute to a special person and maybe it is a good thing that not the sadness of loss has remained the strongest force on display here but rather the happiness and energy resulting from wonderful memories. Its power has certainly turned this into an album which transcends the polarity between underground and mainstream and manages to stay absolutely upright at it: The differences are part of the game, after all.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: HOH at MySpace
Homepage: Zang Records
Homepage: Nu Music

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